Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Wild West Sayings Still Used Today, Part 20


Wild West Sayings Still Used Today 

In the Wild West, there were lots of colorful ways to describe an angry person. I’ve selected three that are familiar to us today. All liken anger to animal behavior. Can you guess which is most popular? 

This post is brought to you by Janalyn Voigt.

Mad as a March Hare 

Every once in a while, a wild hare wanders into my yard and hops about, nibbling at foliage. If something startles the hare, it scurries into hiding. It’s hard to think of such a timid creature in a rage. And yet, someone who is ‘mad as a march hare’ is furious.

Ah, but in March begins the hares’ mating season. A female hare weary of being pursued is likely to fend off a persistent suitor in a ferocious boxing match.

Historical References: In 1529, The supplycacyon of soulys by English scholar Thomas More contained the following passage: “If that man were not for malyce as mad not as marche hare but as a madde dogge that rūneth forth and snatcheth he seeth not at whome: the felowe could neuer elles wyth suche open foly so sodenly ouer se hym selfe.” The concept of a hare in March as being ‘mad’ or ‘merry’ existed earlier in this century, but this quote contains the phrase as we use it today. If it’s hard to puzzle out, here’s a translation: If that man weren’t mad, not as a march hare but as a mad dog that runs and snatches at someone not visible, he could never be so foolish as to make such blunders.

The most famous March Hare appeared in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: "The March Hare ... as this is May, it won't be raving mad - at least not so mad as it was in March."

Example: It made me mad as a March hare when the wind knocked over the scarecrows that it took hours to put up.

Mad as a Hornet

If you’ve ever been stung or pursued by hornets, as I have, you need no interpretation of this idiom. Unlike bees, hornets don’t die after stinging a person and can attack multiple times. Perhaps this is why we speak of bees as busy and hornets seem mad to us. In reality, hornets only sting when they feel threatened.

Historical Reference: The word ‘mad’ began to mean ‘angry’ in the 1300s. ‘Mad as a hornet’ emerged as an idiom in America in the early half of the 1800s.

Example: The trick he played on Sadie made her mad as a hornet.

Madder than a Wet Hen

It isn’t hard to picture a wet hen in a something of a flap (pun intended). 

Historical Reference: This phrase, also an American original from the early 1800s, may refer to a trick used by farmers to rouse hens from broodiness. Apparently, that involved dunking the poor creatures into a barrel of water. As you might imagine, much indignation ensued.

Example: Grandma was madder than a wet hen when the cow got into her corn.

Did you guess? Mad as a hornet is the most popular Wild West saying still in use from the above list. What are some other colorful and slightly humorous ways to describe an angry person?

About Janalyn Voigt


Janalyn Voigt fell in love with literature at an early age when her father read chapters from classics as bedtime stories. When Janalyn grew older, she put herself to sleep with tales "written" in her head. Today Janalyn is a storyteller who writes in several genres. Romance, mystery, adventure, history, and whimsy appear in all her novels in proportions dictated by their genre. Janalyn Voigt is represented by Wordserve Literary.

Learn more about Janalyn, read the first chapters of her books, subscribe to her e-letter, and join her reader clubs at

Montana Gold Series

Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, the Montana gold series explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west. Note: Hills of Nevermore is now available as an audiobook with the rest of the series to follow.


  1. Thanks for the post! I guessed wrong, I chose the wet hen saying. I don't know if it's a real saying or not, but if you think of an angry person being "hot", they might be hotter than a Texas tamale. Seems like I've heard that before but it could be that I'm not awake yet....

    1. If that's not a saying, it should be one! Made me smile. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Growing up on a ranch, I heard mom use the phrase about the hen and hare a lot. I saw a video where two hares stood on their hind legs hitting at each other. It was funny. But I do remember rabbits that were angry when they couldnt get into the chicken coop I enjoy your sharing all of these with us. Thanks.

  3. Yes, hares can box for the longest time, and it is hilarious. There are a number of videos posted on social sites showing this. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  4. I love reading about these old sayings. My grandmother used the wet hen one all the time as did her mother. Grandpa used the phrase "hotter than a firecracker on the fourth of July" to describe an angry person. I've used the hornet one myself more than a time or two.